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Live Review: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin With The Guilty Ones, Lachlan Bryan

15 April 2015 | 4:54 pm | Holly Keys

"Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin come on stage to a roar from the crowd."

Lachlan Bryan opens the night singing rockabilly songs about black coffee and being shot by your wife. He plays harmonica with a neck rack and talks about heading to New Orleans. 

Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin come on stage to a roar from the crowd. Dave’s wearing a white cowboy hat and the rhythm guitarist is rocking silver plaited pigtails. They start with All By Myself, from their latest album Common Ground, their first together in 30 years. Dave says it was nominated for a Grammy but wasn’t good enough to win. They jump into I Feel So Good, which includes an impromptu jam session by backing back The Guilty Ones. 

We should be outside in the sun, stomping our feet on a dusty field, but instead we’re in the Northcote Social Club bandroom. However, Dave and Phil Alvin’s stage presence and Americana charm manage to transport us, taking us to a time where roots music ruled and no one had heard of a synthesiser. The Guilty Ones have their craft down. The drummer in particular kills it on an intense solo during Dry River. She moves effortlessly from blues drums to swing drums. 

Dave says that his big brother, who he charming refers to Phil as throughout the night, used to get harmonica lessons from legendary blues musician Sonny Terry. Phil pulls out the harmonica to show us what he learnt. He plays Key To The Highway and does whatever the equivalent is of shredding on a harmonica. The brothers play some tracks from their old band The Blasters, describing the songs as “American music”. A guy in the crowd sporting a Confederate Flag do-rag seems to agree. They play the rambling One Bad Stud and dedicate it to Lee Allen and Big Joe Turner. Dave does most of the talking, telling us about the siblings’ childhood adventures and love of dusty 45s. He warns us that they’re going to get heavy and play an “existential blues song”. The band roars into What’s Up With Your Brother and another aggressive jam session. Next up is crowd favourite, Johnny Ace Is Dead. Dave’s vocals are smooth and soothing; he could do voice-overs for nature documentaries. 

The Alvins’ lengthy set comes to a close and they look genuinely moved by the crowd’s enthusiastic screams.